Leafs Post-Game: Eaten Alive

The Leafs, disappointed with the first two games of their California road swing, hoped to make amends by capping things off with a big win in San Jose.  Unfortunately, the odds were never in their favor.  Playing on the tail end of a back-to-back against a team that is simply better, Toronto showed fleeting moments of promise tonight only to be denied by a superior Sharks team.  Losing this one 3-1, Toronto finishes their trip through death valley 0-3.

THE RUNDOWN

The first period was an adventure.

Early on the Leafs looked flat, with the Sharks carrying most of the territorial play.  They were eventually rewarded when they pinned the Leafs in hard on the cycle that lead to numerous scoring chances before Tyler Kennedy finally potted one in front of the net.

13 seconds later, it was 2-0.

The Leafs fell right back onto their heels after the goal and quickly allowed a scramble in front of the crease that saw Patrick Marleau break a 17-game goal drought.  In other words, things were starting to get ugly.

But the Leafs, playing their second game in as many nights, found a way to respond.

What ensued in the second half of the period was closer to resembling shinny than actual hockey.  Neither team played much defense, and while you might think that would work in favor of San Jose, most of the play was in the Sharks’ end.  Sandwiched by a couple of plays where the Leafs looked like they surely had a goal, Roman Polak jumped in on a cycle play to pot his 5th (you read that right) goal of the season.  So, 2-1 after 1.

The second period was not so pretty for Toronto.  Outshot 17-4 in the middle frame, the best thing you can say about the Leafs play here was that they kept the score at 2-1.  Thanks James Reimer.

Things started slow in the 3rd for Toronto and it looked like they had completely burnt out as the period began.  However, they did get a handful of chances as the period went along and gave about as good a push as you could expect from a team finishing off a back-to-back, on the road, playing a team that is better than them.  That said, it wasn’t enough.  The Sharks were the better team tonight and got the result they deserved.  Tommy Wingels sealed the deuce for San Jose with an empty netter in the final minute, and that was that.  Tonight aside, they have played pretty well of late.  But yet again, they didn’t get the result they needed.

BLUE WARRIOR

Despite the disappointing performance tonight, it wasn’t all bad for the Leafs.  I thought Kessel was noticeable, Gardiner looked smooth with the puck, and Santorelli generated some good zone-time.  That said, say what you want about him the last couple of seasons, but James Reimer was the most important player for the Leafs tonight.  He had a bad 13 seconds, but aside from that he was virtually perfect.  Stopping 40 of 42 shots, James Reimer is tonight’s Blue Warrior.

NOTES

  • I’ve enjoyed most of what I’ve seen from Peter Horachek since he took over, but tonight he made some questionable decisions.  People were critical of Randy Carlyle for a few reasons, a couple of which are that they didn’t like his stubborn refusal to break up the top line or his affection for guys like Roman Polak and Korbinian Holzer.  Well, Horachek reunited the van Riemsdyk-Bozak-Kessel trio tonight, shifted Roman Polak up to the top defense pairing, and put Holzer back into the lineup in place of Stephane Robidas.  Granted, as a new coach it’s good to give everyone a look.  Still though, not a recipe for success.
  • Tonight was the first game under Horachek the Leafs allowed more than 26 shots.  Yes it was the tail end of a back-to-back game, but man, Todd McLellan teams just outplay the opposition.  McLellan would be near or at the top of my list for long-term head coaches for this team.
  • Wouldn’t it make more sense to play your better goalie for the second game of a back-to-back?  The percentages aren’t in your favor in the tail end, so try to manipulate them by putting in your better goalie.  See if he can steal a game.  Granted, Reimer was great tonight, but in general I think this would make sense.
  • I thought tonight was Matt Frattin’s best game of the season.

SEE YOU SATURDAY

The Leafs wrap up their four-game road trip Saturday in St. Louis against the Blues on CBC at 7PM Eastern.

  • TGT23

    They play offensive minded hockey, they lose games 5-3. They play defensive minded hockey, they lose games 1-0. Then they do whatever it was they did tonight and with SUPERHUMAN goaltending, lose 2-1.

    Anyone else think that perhaps this team is just bad?

    I see A LOT of positives since Randy was fired. They’ve played, for the most part, decent to good hockey defensively and they haven’t needed Superhuman goaltending to stay in games.

    That said, my hope (and a lot of peoples hope) was that when they played better defensively and stopped needing superhuman goaltending to win, they would still win when they got it!

    Reimer and Bernier have deserved better than they’ve gotten the last 5 games and they have to be frustrated. I hope one of them get a traded (preferably Bernier) so not BOTH of their efforts are wasted nightly.

    And since Bernier is the better goalie, but somehow the least liked in Toronto, I hope it’s him who gets free. Let Reimer have his land of misfit toys and Bernier can go to one of half a dozen teams who just need a better goalie to get over the hump.

    • TGT23

      Well you finally see the light eh??? I have said forever that this team with the core players they have and the high contracts etc and the lack of team spirit are no where cup contenders.

      Funny how you wanted Reims gone in favour of your Bernie as you contend to state he is the better net-minder still don’t see it…..Where I have asked for Reims to be trader last year because this team of misfits as you call them don’t deserve him and how BOTH net-minders are being slowly wasted on this team and I also stated if Bernie was smart he would have his agent scouting out new prospects and this was last year, took you this long to figure it out????

      The team needs to work with its young players and really look for some leadership and become good in all areas of their game and maybe one of these years they will blow everyone away???? ok no laughing…

      The team looked good regarding SOG except for last night, only good thing about that was it showed how good Reims is..yea a bad 13 seconds but all net-minders have it and being stale sitting, compared to last year he’s come a long way and for all those he said he would be sour and not have been resignes are eating work all areas and not do well in one only to suck in another….

      I WISH NOTHING BUT GOOD THINGS FOR BOTH REIMS AND BERNIE…

      • TGT23

        Well, Reimerfan, I wanted to keep Bernier when I was under the deluded belief that the team could win and make the playoffs with a few small moves or a play style shift.

        Now that I’ve come to realize they can’t, I’d like to get Bernier out before the Leafs ruin him. Fans like Reimer irrationally more than Bernier, let Leafs Nation have him. Get the better goalie out.

        And ALL the stats show Bernier is better, if you can’t see it then you don’t want to see it and will never. That’s your choice.

        • TGT23

          Well TGT23, I get that, but I also stated that this team as lt stands now is going no where just as it was last year, and no Goalie Bernie or Reims is going no where with them…
          I stated last year that Bernie and Reims both if smart would get out of Toronto and get with a better organization where they can flourish and be a cup contender…..

          You can have all the stats you want, Bernie is not playing as well as he did last year as far as I am concern and as for Reims before the crap hit the fan last year and RC benched Reims and played mind games with him, REIMS was tied with Rask for 3rd spot etc….so don’t go there..

          Reims may not be calm in the net as you or others say, but he’s a fighter and competes harder than Bernie, Bernie I feel is to laid back both on the ice and off, he also takes to many un needed risks, he doesn’t have the passion Reims does…..

          Anyways I’m not gonna fight with you, again to each their own…maybe I am wrong and have to eat my words but I don’t think so……

          in the last game with the ducks he got beaten by the Back-up goalie and faced 25 shots I think and had 3 goals on him and the game agasint the Kings 1 goal but in the first 37 seconds in the game,(which hes had alot of these) and on from there….I’m sorry but he’s not worth his 2.8 million and he;s not worth the money he will want to stay at the end of this season….

          TRADE HIM….GOOD-BYE
          REIMS TRADE HIM AND GOOD LUCK …doesn’t need the crap he’s had to put up these last couple seasons……or wife which got attacked again this year……

          Why not go on the Leafs message board they got a poll going over there for which goalie to trade….

          Have fun…

          Its not that the fans like Reims better they just know he’s the better choice and the cheaper choice..after all they can keep him for another season for 2 mill, not gonna get that with Bernie, which I think sucks because Reims should have been making that money….

          • TGT23

            If after the last two seasons anyone is deluded enough to believe Reimer, with significantly inferior stats, is the better goalie then God help them.

            Leaf Nation likes Reimer more because they’ve grown with him. They’ve watched him develop and his concussion issues. Bernier is just some guy they brought in.

            Reimer is a likeable guy, so that’s fine. He’s also a below league average goalie. Stats don’t lie. And I don’t know what the heck you’re saying about 3rd with Rask. Bernier had better numbers than Reimer all season. He was a Vezina candidate before injury derailed his year.

            All that poll does is show what I’ve said. People LIKE Reimer more. Not that he’s better. He’s less talented and less durable than Bernier. He’s never played more than 40 games. So what are we talking about here?

  • Jeremy Ian

    To quote Sgt. Joe Friday, Just the facts Mam. So let me set it straight in here regarding San Jose. This is a team that was out scored 13 to 4 in its last three games at home. The Sharks tank is no longer the feared place it once was.

    It should also be pointed out that the Rangers who likely will make the playoffs won all their 3 recent games in California. The leafs manage one pathetic goal. But we should thank Polak as the leafs would be in the Guinness world record book for being the only team to be shut out in three games in California.

    The buzz word in the big smoke has become meaningful games. After all the Jays played meaningful games last September, late in March 2014 the leafs will still playing meaningful games.

    NEWS FLASH. January 15th, the leafs season is oversville. Figure that out you stat geeks. Yep 4 wins in their last 15 and St. Louis Saturday followed by one home game and then 5 more out of 6 on the road.

    You need look no further than Rogers or Bell for giving the leafs in the eastern conference a brutal schedule each year as the buds are always either number one or two in back to back games. As long as that Air Canada center is filled, who cares about the leafs playing 16 out of 23 on the road.

    Montreal’s leading goal scorer and now alternate Captain Max Pacioretty was interviewed the other night. He explained how he was honoured to wearing the C and the responsibility it brought.

    He explained that he was really working on becoming a 200 foot player that he had to set an example for his team mates especially the younger players by working his butt off to improve his defensive game.

    Now compare his attitude with Kessel, Bozak, J.V.R. Lupul etc. etc.

    Look the simple bottom line is this team is highly over rated by the fans and the toronto media. Jake Gardiner simply can’t play defence. Dion Phaneuf is a liability with his back skating. Dave Clarkson can’t skate.

    Sadly I’m reading more and more postings by old time leaf fans who watched the team win 4 stanley cups in the 1960’s. There response is that they never believed that after 1967 they would not have seen another Stanley Cup. Some of them mention that they probably only have 15 or 20 years left on this good old earth and they figure they won’t see another cup for their beloved leafs. What a sad indictment of the leaf ownership from Ballard, Stravos, Ontario teachers pension fund and now to the money grubbing Rogers and Bell corporations. Shame on them.

    • TGT23

      You sort of had me up until you said Jake Gardiner can’t play defense. That’s outrageously untrue to the point of nearly being an outright lie.

      He was good last season with flashes of real brilliance.

      Jake Gardiner is like a relief pitcher in baseball. 9 out of 10 times you won’t even notice him as he does his job effectively and efficiently. But, as a very reactionary Toronto fan base, that tenth time where he implodes and gives up a homer to lose a game. Well that’s just the end of the world!

      Gardiner is 24 years old in his 2nd full season… Give the kid a break.

      People like you would run P.K Subban out of the city if he were a Leaf during his development.

      • Jeremy Ian

        You know TG I actually thought along your lines especially after the Bruins choke as Gardiner played very good hockey in that series. But after the concussion he went to the minors.

        I kept asking Carlyle why wasn’t he up with the big team. Well we see every night why the leafs hesitated bringing him back. Seriously man are you watching a different league?? Minus 4 against Washington.

        Afraid of his own shadow as guys just run him into the boards even though he is 6 foot 2 and 195 lbs.

        Take the first goal last night he was totally out of position.

        Now his defence is hopeless. Where is his offensive game, where are the points TG. Sorry buddy you are sooooo wrongsville on Gardiner. The guy just hasn’t got it upstairs to play a smart defensive game. I’m sorry you can’t comprehend that.

        • TGT23

          His play since the last healthy scratch has been VERY good. A blip, as you mentioned, in Washington, but he’s been solid and even as far as pretty good since. If you haven’t seen that then you’re obviously only focusing on the bad. The 10th time.

          How was he the REST of the game last night? That’s my point. You focus on the one mistake and not the 9 other times he played great.

          And it’s hilarious you think Gardiner doesn’t have the head to play great hockey. He sees and thinks the game beautifully. But, again, you only see the bad and can’t look passed your ignorance to see the overwhelming good.

    • jimithy

      Very well said. It is very strange that the so-called fans embrace the crap and the hype so mindlessly year after year. Toronto is really not deserving to be in the NHL with fans like that.

      • Jeremy Ian

        Wait, who’s saying this is all a success story? If I read the news today, everyone’s pretty glum about the only thing we do basically agree upon: the Leafs won’t make the playoffs. I don’t see anyone embracing defeat.

        The Blow-Up-The-Core (BUTC) chorus is as lame as the apologists. You’d think everyone who didn’t sign up for the script was a moron. Is there really only an option between being a mindless pessimist and a mindless optimist?

        How about some realism? (And don’t give me this pseudo realism that comes from I’ve-been-around-forever-and-we-all-just-have-to-bathe-in-Ballard’s-piss talk) How about a new metaphor? Rebuild, restructure, whatever. But if you degrade everything then you do dumb things.

        No one gives stuff away for free, which means BUTC is for dummies.

        So, you can draft well, which has started. I happen to think Rielly and Nylander are the good news.

        And you can trade present value for future value. But don’t trade valuable assets for less than they are worth and bring in others that are worth less than what the market will bear. If Shanahan’s smart, it’s what he’ll do. Set the clock back a few years, but don’t smash it in some puerile fit.

      • Jeremy Ian

        Thanks for the kind words Jimithy. Look I fully comprehend the mentality of a leaf fan under 54 years of age. You have never, never had the feeling of being a fan of a Stanley cup team. For most seasons you have been fed mediocrity. No different than a Chicago Cub fan.

        I really don’t think Jeremey who I enjoy his passion and comments fully understands how the M.L.S.E. board is running this team. Case in point, Mark Hunter joins the gaggle of management, yet Dave Morrison, Mike Penny and other old boys club scouts are still employed after a disastrous ten years of drafting.

        I guaranteed that Clarkson despite his hands of stone would get plenty of power play time especially on the second unit. Why would any intelligent coach or G.M. okay this?? Simply because the pressure is coming from up top. The blue suits and bean counters who have obviously the same knowledge of a Jerry Jones when it comes to their sport demand that the guy get big ice time as he has the iron clad huge contract. Sadly he can’t skate. There was one actual sad moment which was comical in a way but pathetic in another. Clarkson stumbled into a hard shot from the point. He fell and got up and proceeded to fall two more times on his butt. I’ve never seen a guy fall as often as he does at the N.H.L. level.

        What people now have to understand is that there are 29 other G.M.’s who know the leafs are dealing a hand from weakness. Thus I’m sure the leafs will attempt to unload some of the stiffs they have but don’t expect a lot in return. At best a second round pick or two.

        Now looking at the standings and the brutal schedule the leafs have coming up with 6 of the next 8 on the road and their complete failure on the road with only 2 victories in 11 games it is quite conceivable that the three bottom dwellers won’t be that far behind the leafs in the standings. So yes a tanking isn’t that difficult with the selling off of a couple players.

        The leafs finally have to get a corner stone to build this franchise around. This is a decade draft and considering how the core just doesn’t play a 200 foot game, the leafs seriously should consider going after the number one or two pick.

        You are not going to get a star through free agency and hopefully the meddling M.L.S.E. board will actually not make a brutal signing of a 37 year old Robidas or a Clarkson. Actually let the management you hired do their job.

        The day a new young leader comes to training camp and simply states I’m the new captain and it is an honour as I recognize the legacy of the great captains of the past. I will set by example as I will be the first on the ice and the last on the ice. I will play a 200 foot game and I will do all I can to set this type of game as the leaf style of hockey. That truly will be the day that the leafs will be heading in the right direction.

        In other words the antithesis of Phil Kessel simply stating I don’t work out in the summer and I have a long leash and I don’t have to play a 200 foot game because I’m Phil Kessel and you are not.

        For those who can’t comprehend the difference between a true leader and a guy who plays for himself, well I feel sorry for you.

  • Regarding “play the better goalie in the second game” – I’ve heard a few people argue convincingly recently that you should play your better goalie in the game you’re more likely to win / the game against the weaker team when you’re playing back-to-backs. Make sure you get the 2 points. If you get a point or two out of the other game, bonus.

    In the Leafs’ case, they played two roughly equal teams back-to-back, so it makes sense to start Bernier the first night, when the team is more rested and more likely to win.

    It’s all moot though since it’s not likely Bernier would have outperformed Reimer in this game.

  • Jeremy Ian

    Quote
    affection for guys like Roman Polak and Korbinian Holzer. Well, Horachek reunited the van Riemsdyk-Bozak-Kessel trio tonight, shifted Roman Polak up to the top defense pairing, and put Holzer back into the lineup in place of Stephane Robidas. Granted, as a new coach it’s good to give everyone a look. Still though, not a recipe for success.
    Tonight was the first game under Horachek the Leafs allowed more than 26 shots. Yes it was the tail end of a back-to-back game, but man, Todd McLellan teams just outplay the opposition. McLellan would be near or at the top of my list for long-term head coaches for this team.
    Wouldn’t it make more sense to play your better goalie for the second game of a back-to-back? The percentages aren’t in your favor in the tail end, so try to manipulate them by putting in your better goalie. See if he can steal a game. Granted, Reimer was great tonight, but in general I think this would make sense.

    1. What’s not to like about Roman Polak?
    He has size , skates well, often registers most hits on the team , displays more heart than anyone else on the team, joins the rush and scores goals……He leads by example the way he plays he matches up well against 1st lines with large physical players.As well if you listen to Horachek’s post game he explains he thought it would be good to get Franson away from the Heavy top line of the Sharks hoping he would generate more offense from that position.
    2. The reason why teams often lose the second half
    of 2 games in a row is they get worn down and Robidas takes more punishment game in and out than any other player I have ever seen, and again Holtzer is a larger stronger player and is fresh and more capable of dealing with a physical team like the sharks.

    3.After not scoring for 2 games it was very important even if they lost to score a goal to vs Sharks to relieve some of the pressure on the team, and they were one bounce away from a tie game to nite-that’s why the Bozak line was reunited.

    4.I hate when someone questions and criticizes a coaches decision, when the facts bear out that the coaches decision in fact turned out to be right .
    Case in point putting Polak on the first D line – he scores the only Leaf goal.

    Bernier has a habit of letting in a first shot goal which if it happened last night
    could of been insurmountable -like it was in LA.

    He puts Reimer in and Reimer plays excellent
    -only in Toronto would anyone criticize a correct decision.

  • Horachek is looking like a terrible coach
    – Clarkson on the PP?
    – Bozak on the first line?
    – Kadri and JVR are worse with him then Randy
    – 40+ shots against just like Randy
    – No accountability with fly by Kessel
    – Boring hockey with losing record

  • TGT23

    Horachek is looking like a terrible coach
    – Clarkson on the PP?
    – Bozak on the first line?
    – Kadri and JVR are worse with him then Randy
    – 40+ shots against just like Randy
    – No accountability with fly by Kessel
    – Boring hockey with losing record

    • Jeremy Ian

      Those combinations were late RC choices, not PH’s. Things may be bad, but we don’t have to contort the past. PH is not doing anything fundamental to line combos other than moving Winnik to the top line to even the pitch of the rink. Remember, before Lupul got injured, JVR had already been teamed with Kadri. (Though I agree, getting Clarkson off the PP and letting Santo jump in is a no-brainer; in fact, I am really starting to think that management may have to consider swallowing that $2.5m to pay him the full amount allowable under the structure of his contract just to move into a new era).

      On the other hand, I have to say, PH’s strategy of bending the shots against curve down is killing the offense. With the guys playing deep, they can’t get quick breaks and use their speed. Bozak has, what, one shot in 3 games?

      We might have to consider that RC was playing to the offensive strengths he had with this roster with the power on the wings unsustained at center, but masked it with his euphemistic system. Either way, as Shanahan noted, he is watching everyone. If this roster can’t find a way to do more than score on fast breaks, it’s not going to succeed.

      Also, Mark Staal at $5.7m for 6 years? 7 points in 41 games this season. Franson’s going to cost the Leafs a fortune now, unless Shanahan starts bailing contracts in order to make room for Cody as a new core. Lesson here on how badly Nonis has handled the Franson dealings over the past 2 years.

      Here’s a good one:

      http://www.battleofcali.com/2015/1/15/7550843/sharks-gameday-the-leafs-should-trade-for

  • Jeremy Ian

    We are 5 points out, with the Rangers and Panthers with 3-4 games in hand. Realistically, we are out of the running; clinging by the edge of our fingernails has cost us in the past. Don’t turn a tragedy into a farce.

    So, here’s a thought:

    Move Bozak, Lupul, Dion, Reimer, and sign Santo and Franson. Whether you make these deals now or before the draft, I am not sure; probably a combo of tactics depending on opportunities with teams like Colorado needing someone like Dion… (they are 3 points out and only 1 game behind Calgary and LA), or to Vancouver which is hanging in there.

    Get a high pick or a serious prospect, and plan on bringing Brown, Nylander, Percy into the system in August. This makes the decision focus on the C1 spot.

    There’s no single move out there; it’s going to require a combination.

    Maybe swallow the fee on Clarkson’s contract, it’s that bad. With Kovalchuk, he looked good. But we just don’t have the play-drivers that allow Clarkson flourish in front of the net. Brutal.

    I prefer the model of restructuring the core than blowing it up, myself. It’s hard to build with rubble; easier with bricks and mortar.